Expatriates in Hamburg – the Williams/McCabe Triangle

notes from Chanel Williams, ’16 on her research in Hamburg during the summer

During my time in Hamburg, Germany I took a course that focused on the creation of expatriate culture in Hamburg. During this course I interviewed expatriates working at science and business corporations in Hamburg. These expatriates were from America, Italy, The Philippines as well as other countries. The expatriates that I interviewed provided information on how they integrated into Hamburg society. They offered examples of socializing with their colleagues outside of the work environment and going to festivals such as Hamburg’s Port Anniversary. Although some expatriates created social connections with Hamburg residents, others had stronger social ties with family and friends from their home country. Social media provided these expatriates with the ability to stay in touch with their family and friends located thousands of miles away.

Based on the information received from these expatriates, a Bryn Mawr student and I were able to construct a potential theory about the social interactions of these expatriates.  This theory, called the Williams, McCabe Triangle, suggested that there were three major social groups for expatriates and that most expatriates living in Hamburg utilized two of these social groups, but rarely all three. These three social groups were coworkers and friends living in Hamburg, friends contacted through social media, and business contacts from the expatriate’s home country. Evidence from our expatriate interviews shows that most expatriates were a part of social groups in Hamburg and on social media but did not remain strongly connected with their colleagues in their home country. The few expatriates that did remain in touch with their colleagues back home were not as invested in the social atmosphere in Hamburg and used social media as their second means of communication. Being able to remain in contact with people from home and the ease of accessing social media anywhere in the world shows how the internet and social media are making the world a more interconnected place. This course on expatriates has given me a deeper understanding on the globalization that is occurring and how business people are using this globalization to their advantage.

A Tourist of the Quotidian

When I was little, my parents used to take me to the zoo. I loved it. I still love it. According to family legend, my parents would bring me to the habitats of the lions or the elephants and I would squeal with delight, having spotted a row of ants marching along the sidewalk. I have learned to appreciate the grandiose since then, but to this day one of my favorite parts of traveling is the insignificant, everyday differences between what I’m used to and what is normative in the new place I’m visiting. When people say, “What have you seen in Hamburg?” it’s hard for me not to gush about how I saw the sun through the young leaves, the brick-paved bike paths, or the idiosyncratic way Germans write the number one.

One of my favorite things to do when I travel anywhere is to visit a drugstore and a grocery store, because that to me is where life happens. (I think I have a particular love for grocery stores because I read Don DeLillo’s White Noise, wherein the character Murray finds great spiritual meaning in grocery stores, as an impressionable youth.) Between cases of liter bottles of mineral water, eggs sold 10 at a time, and grocery bags that cost five cents apiece, German grocery stores did not disappoint.

you had one job

you had one job

This semester was my first cities course, and in the context of the 360 I learned all about how the shape and architecture of a city can change a person or community’s experience within it. During this trip I enjoyed observing a kind of micro-architecture that has shaped my time in the city. The weight and sound of euros in my pocket, the political stickering on the telephone poles in my neighborhood, the coveralls worn my construction workers around the city all filled every place I’ve visited with a distinctive spirit of Europe, Germany, and Hamburg.

In the Art of Exile course in the 360, we read Nabokov’s Guide to Berlin, wherein the protagonist shows his companion sites of the city that include construction, pipes, trolleys, and delivery boys on bicycles. At the end of the story, his companion claims it is a poor guide, but I think I get where he’s coming from. The texture of the pavement, the sing-song cacophony of Germany voices, the smell of the Elbe, and other details that fill days that are not particularly special are often the real essence of a place.

Mental Map Bookends, part two

I recently happened upon a poem I wrote in class the very first day of this 360 after we finished a mental mapping exercise. I found it this week right after we did another mental map after a tour of Hamburg and felt compelled to write a poem about it. It’s crazy to look back on the first day of the 360 and consider how my ideas about space and identity have changed since then. Here is the second poem, which I wrote this week. 



Walk two meters down to observe the site where I

smiled at a cute boy on bike and he smiled back

(because I was a cute girl on no bike)


And here

is where I found my people,

boyfaced and name-tagging


If you travel to the Hauptbahnhof,

walk through the Northeast exit,

and walk a few paces more,

you can see the historical site where, in 2013,

a hungry young woman spontaneously transcended mortality

by way of a


truly great pretzel.

Mental Map Bookends, part one

I recently happened upon a poem I wrote in class the very first day of this 360 after we finished a mental mapping exercise. I found it this week right after we did another mental map after a tour of Hamburg and felt compelled to write a poem about it. It’s crazy to look back on the first day of the 360 and consider how my ideas about space and identity have changed since then. Here is the first poem, which I wrote in January of this year and have fixed up since. 

me and two sisters in our backyard

me and two sisters in our backyard

In Class

Professor Hein wishes to illustrate the concept of a mental map

We draw our hometowns with chubby markers

trying to share our homes with crude colorful pentagons

Susan Sontag says

“…everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually one’s own.”

I say

“Climbing this mountain is a given in Provo.”

I say

“Climbing this mountain is a rite of passage in Provo.”

wondering when my thighs will have the substance to make that ascension with me

I don’t say

“Driving up this mountain is how you get to second base in Provo.”

I say

“These asterisks represent the best pools to skinnydip in.”

indicating my representations of wee hour chlorine fun

(it’s ok to say that at Bryn Mawr)

I think

“Will I feel homesick every day for the rest of my life?”

I think

“Is there a place in the world where I will not yearn for a different place?”

My father looks at the sky and says

“If you don’t know why you’re sad, maybe you’re homesick for a place you don’t remember.”

A Visit to the Museum

Screencap of Fall 2 by Bas Jan Ader, featured in the Hamburger Kunsthalle

Screencap of Fall 2 by Bas Jan Ader, featured in the Hamburger Kunsthalle

I think video art must have been invented by artists who found museums to be as exhausting as I do. The floors are hard on your feet, walking around for hours at a time gets strenuous, and looking at art in general is pretty draining. Video art provides a dark space wherein sitting down for a little while (or sometimes a long while) is totally acceptable and power naps are an option, as evidenced by my snoozing yesterday on a beanbag chair situated between a Marina Abramovic piece and a Vito Acconci piece in the Kunsthalle. I am forever indebted to the video artist community for how they have enhanced my museum experience. My only critique of video art in general would be to suggest the addition of yoga mats and footbaths to exhibitions.

Chagall, Couple with Goat

Chagall, Couple with Goat

Yesterday’s visit to the Hamburger Kunsthalle, which included a tour provided by yours truly (sidenote: how cool is it that I get to give a museum tour for my final?!), was actually my third visit. I dropped by on Sunday to prepare my project, but the first time I went I was a fresh-faced, eager, 16-yr-old doing a year-long foreign exchange in a rural town in the middle of Germany. I was at an academic retreat in Lübeck and we took a day trip to Hamburg. Me and one of the chaperones split off from the group to visit the Kunsthalle. My museum companion was named Lars and was the kind of guy Mike Myers’ Deiter parodies, right down to the black turtleneck. He was really enthusiastic about visiting the Old Masters and I was eager to see Degas’ monotypes, which which I ended up writing a paper about two years later in my first ever art history class. This museum visit was during a period of a few years during which I figured out that I wanted to study art history. I remember every museum visit from that time period vividly. I was thrilling for me, then, to return to the Kunsthalle, this time with the amazing art historical toolbox Bryn Mawr has given me and in particular with the multidisciplinary perspective I gained thanks to my 360 experience this semester.

basically my museum companion my first time at the Kunsthalle

basically my museum companion my first time at the Kunsthalle

Midair Musings

I scribbled this in the margins of the paperback haiku collection I’ve been writing in because I left my journal at home (insufferably romantic, I know). I am just getting to post it several days later because I have hardly been around the internet so far– too much to see irl! 

my knees, Lufthansa blanket

May 4, 2013. Early. Over Europe. 

All its use as a cliched symbol aside, watching a sunrise really holds up. It’s pretty remarkable. I have a window in my Brecon bedroom that gets a lot of morning sun but doesn’t catch the sunrise directly. I keep the blinds wide open at all times because I am a deep sleeper and the sun through my window helps me wake up. I love waking up early enough to lie facing my bedroom window and watch the sky become a different sky. It is a pleasure.

This morning, I’m not sure what time (we were pretty liminal in terms of time zones at this point anyway) I paused Beasts of the Southern Wild, looked up from my beekeeping book, and put down the blueberry muffin a super-polite German flight attendant had just brought me and stared. Something remarkable was happening. The horizon had taken a peachy luminosity, a color beyond my wildest dreams. I saw right where the sky becomes not sky what looked to me like the forest fires that I occasionally see in the dry distance back home in Utah. The horizon remained seemingly aflame for what felt like a long time.

I have never seen a sunrise like this. My mouth was agape. I could hear a flight attendant approaching and knew soon I would have to ask for orange juice, please. I was nervous at the prospect of tearing myself away from the window, worried that I would be rude in my distraction. She was two rows away when the dawn broke– finally I understand that phrase– and I saw a blinding orange sliver emerge over the horizon. This is the moment when looking gets tricky. Like a loud concert, the sunrise became harmful to the same sense it was pleasing to. I fixed my gaze on a nearby cloud, hoping my periphery would satisfy. That blinding sliver became a blinding slice, a blinding semicircle. Soon, too soon, it became circular, still blinding but now white against blue instead of orange in a gradient of peaches and pinks. I could feel the sun then as well as seeing it, and I watched its light illuminate the pink ear and white hair of the stranger sitting next to me. I wondered if the bright light was bothering him, but I had no plans to close the blind until he asked me to.